by Sarah Van Diest
Several years ago my husband and two of our boys went fishing in Alaska. They were there in the summer months when the sun stayed present almost the entire 24 hours; balanced on the horizon like a ball on a ledge. Though there is beauty in a perpetual sunset, there is something sad about a night that doesn’t do its job. That doesn’t close out the sun and bring in the stars. That doesn’t cover the sky with a blanket of blackness and snuggle it in for a good night’s sleep. There’s something lost in the absence of that dark.
There is something not quite satisfying about it. It’s like a day with no joy in it. When you rest your head on your pillow and have no fond memories of the day you just lived. It’s like a life without really living.
It’s eating that doesn’t fill and drinking that doesn’t extinguish thirst.
The word my soul keeps mouthing but can’t quite say is “futility”. I can look at the futility of this life, the way it promises to quench and doesn’t deliver; I can look at this with my mind and be objective about it. I can say that I agree with Solomon that all pursuits in this life are hevel, smoke, wind; and that there is nothing to live for outside of loving God and obeying His commands. I can even say that we should enjoy the pleasures around us and not worry. These are things I can say with my mind.
But my soul groans, aches and cries.
It does not so easily accept those intentional and rational pronouncements.
It has a different understanding than my mind.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Ps. 42:1
My soul cannot discern the thoughts of my mind, so it seems it must be the other way around; that my mind must discern the thoughts of my soul. Or at least try. And what my mind perceives and comprehends may not be right. But all I can tell is that my soul was made for a different way of life. That when God made us, we were created for how things were supposed to be, but aren’t. That beating in the innermost parts of our core is a drum that calls out the rhythm of a dance we can’t quite follow just now. That our souls remember what once was; and groan like the earth groans to see that dream restored.
My mind can be objective and accept the realities of today for what they are. My mind has no memory imposed upon its wrinkles that tell of a different time, but my soul does. The Truth is imprinted on me; woven in the fabric of my body; undetachable; a beautiful cancer integrated into my system absorbing the promises of this world, feeding on them and yet finding no substance there; wreaking havoc on the body it occupies as it searches for something to fulfill its unappeasable lusts.
C.S. Lewis wrote on this idea:
“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.
“At present we are on the outside… the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the pleasures we see. But all the pages of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get “in”… We will put on glory… that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.
We do not want to merely “see” beauty–though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
The absence of this completeness; or the presence of this incompleteness, is not a bad thing; it is a herald of hope. It is the thing that testifies to the reality of something more. In that we can find reason to be thankful. We can find reason to rejoice and shout praises to our God who created us with an imbedded truth that murmurs, bubbles, crescendos and explodes in our hearts proclaiming and demanding our need for Him… so we would long for Him…so we would search for Him…and so we would find Him.
“…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, … that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” Acts 17:26, 27
Our groanings are not something we need to fix, control or shut up. Our starving souls do not need to be fed so we no longer hunger. These are just the indicators, the markers, the northern stars that point to a promise. These painful cries are the testifiers of the truth: the aching souls are the harbingers of good news.
The good news is that He is coming back to us. He will restore what once was and the memory banks of our souls will be flooded with the sweetness of being reunited with a long buried truth. He will establish His Kingdom and it is then when our souls will find their rest; the weeping will cease; the empty shall be made whole. The promises we intrinsically count on will find their fulfillment. Wait patiently, oh my soul, He is coming.